Odyssey by Michael P. Kube-McDowell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is an interesting beginning to a series commissioned by Asimov’s publisher and with his permission. Indeed, he writes the forward. Of course, the Three Laws of Robotics are in full force here.
A man, who goes by the name of Derec, which is found on the front of his shirt, wakes up on an asteroid with severe amnesia. He has no idea who he is, where he’s from, where he was going, who his family is, what planet he’s from, what his work is, etc. All he knows is that he’s surrounded by robots. Many, many robots. And most of them are pretty darn busy. It looks like they’re mining. He starts wandering around the various levels and meets some of the robots and while they’re respectful, they won’t let him leave the premises for his own safety or rebuild the craft he was in to take off in. After awhile, a space ship is seen coming toward the asteroid and no own knows its intent, but the robots start going wild. They start taking everything on the premises to be burned and once dumped in the incinerator, they jump in after. They’re committing suicide. The ship turns out to be hostile and fires lasers at the asteroid and their colony, wreaking terrible damage. Derec outwits a robot, dons a special suit, and makes it to the surface. At the very end, a robot breaks free and shouts to Derek that they’ve found the key. Derec passes out.
And wakes up on the space ship. Where a very hostile alien is captain of the ship and wants robots for slaves. He’s got some blown up parts and insists Derec build him a robot or else. There are several types of aliens on this large ship and one that looks kind of like a dog becomes a kind of friend to him. Derec somehow builds a robot, but gives it instructions to listen only to Derec as his ultimate master, even while following someone else’s orders. The captain is happy with the robot and promptly tells Derec he wants 50 more. Derec and his doggie buddy make it to the control center of the ship, where the robot and the dog carry off the captain. Derec starts looking for the hidden key the robots gave him, as he’s obsessed with it. As he’s looking, a young woman appears and seems to know him. However, as they’re talking, he’s working on lifting floor boarding and an explosion occurs, knocking everyone out.
Derec wakes up in a hospital room in what he later finds out are weeks later. And his female friend, Kate, is there too, still asleep from her injuries. And they have a robot doctor. They’re on a space station manned entirely by robots. And part of the space ship had come loose and the robots had captured it and brought it back to the station. As soon as Kate, the young woman, is able to get around, they start talking about getting back home, wherever that is. And they talk about the key, which the woman knows about too. However, neither of them knows its significance. Odd. The doggie alien turns up, hiding from the robots and the three of them team up to rescue the key, which the doggie knows the location of. And they pull it off! The three of them end up back in a darkened room and it turns out that the alien knows a little about it. Apparently, it’s a key to a transdimensional travel ability, which is why it’s so wanted. As the robots are closing in on them, Kate and Derec rub it, find a catch, push it and disappear. And appear in the middle of nothingness. They push it again and appear atop a pyramid in a large, beautiful but alien city. They try it again, but it doesn’t work, so they figure it needs time to “recharge.” So they spend the night atop the pyramid.
In the morning, they go for it again and they’re taken back to the land of nothingness. They press the key again, thinking of winding up on Kate’s home planet and they’re dispatched right back to the pyramid. Odd. Derec decides he wants to go down and look around. Kate follows him down. At the bottom, they’re met by robots. They’re taken to a house, where they get cleaned up, and then go to meet the city leaders, who they assume are going to be human. But they’re wrong. More robots. Because they’re in Robot City. There are no humans. They’re stunned. And while they want off the planet and to go back home, it turns out that can’t happen because of an interesting plot twist that leaves you hanging at the end of the book. Completely unresolved. You have to buy the sequel and probably each sequel after that in order to find resolution. This publishing strategy usually bugs me and I’m encountering that with David Weber’s Safehold series, but his books are 800-1100 pages long. This book was only 200 pages and I read it in a day. So I’m not too put off by the idea of reading a few sequels in this series. The writing is simple. The plot is basic. It’s pretty easy to understand. The sci fi isn’t very original. But it’s still fun. It takes you back to a simpler time in sci fi. And if you like robots, you’re in for a treat. Recommended.